Story by Graham Duncan
There were no empty seats in Lander University’s lecture hall as students, faculty, staff, and members of the community took part in Lander’s “Hope for the Homeless” panel discussion on Thursday, Oct. 17.
The panel, sponsored by Lander’s Diversity Advisory Council and student chapter of Habitat for Humanity, brought together representatives from the university’s Division of Student Affairs, the City of Greenwood, Greenwood County School District 50 and the Greenwood Pathway House. Each of these groups said they encounter Greenwood’s homelessness differently.
Kim Shannon, Lander’s executive director of wellness and holistic support, said that homelessness is also an issue among students studying at Lander. “People assume sometimes when you’re on a university campus that everyone’s here, and everything’s paid for. Your room’s paid for, your food’s paid for,” she said, “and that’s just not the way it is.” Shannon stressed that Lander has a strong network of leaders on campus that help identify potential homeless situations and offer education and support to those members of Lander’s community.
In addition to Shannon, the panel included Dr. Boyd Yarbrough, vice president of student affairs at Lander University; Kathryn Butler, director of student support services at Greenwood School District 50; Mary Anderson, student support facilitator at Woodfields Elementary School; Ryan Thomas, Greenwood’s assistant city manager; Gerald Brooks, Greenwood’s chief of police; and Anthony Price, executive director of the Greenwood Pathway House.
“Homelessness is not a person—it’s a situation,” said Butler. Just last year, District 50 had approximately 549 identified homeless children, although she admitted that number could be higher due to the difficulty of identifying homelessness in school-aged kids. “We look at it like this: does that child have a permanent night-time residence?” Butler said.
Finding solutions to homelessness, however, requires a strong team effort, according to Price. “Community is the way to solve homelessness,” Price said. “The federal government cannot solve homelessness because every person is different.” With this in mind, Price noted that Pathway House sits down with each client individually to formulate a path out of the person’s homeless situation.
At the conclusion of the forum, all panelists were unanimous in their call for the community to continue to work together in combatting homelessness. Price praised Dr. Yarbrough and Lander University for their hard work at addressing homelessness in their student population, emphasizing the team effort needed to address Greenwood’s homelessness issue. “When a community comes together to solve a problem, we’re a lot more effective at solving that problem,” said Price.